07/16/2006 11:00PM

Expect to see some talented babies

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EZ Warrior, pointing to the Best Pal, is one of the top juveniles at Del Mar.

DEL MAR, Calif. - The best 2-year-old in the country emerged from last year's Del Mar meeting in Stevie Wonderboy, who won the Del Mar Futurity and later the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

As usual this summer at Del Mar, a number of promising 2-year-olds are poised for the meet. At Hollywood Park, EZ Warrior emerged as the leader of the pack in the Hollywood Juvenile, but several others showed promise, most notably the maiden winner Cobalt Blue, who, like Stevie Wonderboy, is trained by Doug O'Neill. And once the meet begins here on Wednesday, several well-regarded newcomers are expected to make their debuts before the season ends on Sept. 6.

The first 2-year-old race of the meet will be run on Wednesday and is restricted to California-breds. It drew two horses who have trained sharply for their debut. Indian Ashton, a Tribal Rule colt trained and co-owned by Wesley Ward, meets Mr Tex, an In Excess colt trained by Bob Baffert.

"This is my 2-year-old. He's a runner," said Ward, who said Baffert "wants to bet me horse for horse."

On Saturday, the first open 2-year-old race of the meet is scheduled, and on Sunday, some of the circuit's best fillies will have their first race of the season. Both fields are expected to have several promising runners.

Saturday's race is scheduled to include Monterey Jazz, a Craig Dollase-trained son of Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up Thunderello who sizzled six furlongs in 1:12.80 on Sunday at Hollywood Park. The time was the best of 15 at the distance.

Also scheduled for Saturday's race are Horse Greeley, a Mr. Greeley colt trained by Richard Mandella; Marked Warrior, a Cherokee Run colt trained by Eoin Harty; and Principle Secret, a Sea of Secrets colt trained by Chris Paasch.

"That race always comes up salty," Harty said.

Paasch has a number of 2-year-olds he likes, including Prime Ruler, a son of Orientate "who is the nuts," Paasch said, and Masterful Lass, a Mizzen Mast filly. "We should have an exciting summer," Paasch said.

Principle Secret worked a half-mile in 47.20 seconds on Saturday at Hollywood Park, and Prime Ruler went five furlongs in 1:00.80. Masterful Lass rolled from the gate in 59.40 seconds.

The filly race this Sunday is expected to include Diva's Seastar, a daughter of Broken Vow who is a half-sister to the multiple stakes-winning mare Elusive Diva. Like Elusive Diva, Diva's Seastar is trained by Mark Glatt.

Victor Espinoza, the leading rider at Hollywood Park and the defending champ at Del Mar, has been regularly working Entourage, an A.P. Indy colt trained by Mandella who is scheduled to make his debut on July 29. Also scheduled for that race is Dilemma, a Grand Slam colt whom trainer Paddy Gallagher said he expects to improve off his debut at Hollywood Park.

Several highly regarded 2-year-olds might not make their debuts until midway through the meet. Among those is Union Scale, a Richter Scale colt who cost $800,000 at Barretts in March. He is trained by John Sadler.

"He missed a little time with a foot problem, but he should run by the end of August," Sadler said. "He looks like a runner."

Jeff Mullins, who trained the best filly at Del Mar last year, Del Mar Debutante winner Wild Fit, has a pair of colts who have been working strongly at Hollywood Park - Colonel Chick, a son of West Acre, and an unnamed colt by Wild Wonder who has been working under his dam's name, Susie Do. They worked a half-mile in 47.80 seconds on Sunday at Hollywood Park.

"Alex Solis and Pat Valenzuela keep showing up every Sunday to work them, so they must be okay," Mullins said.

Neil Drysdale, who unveiled Your Tent or Mine here last year, has a fast-working Forestry colt named Flawless Finish and a Royal Academy colt named Surf Academy who bear watching. Surf Academy worked six furlongs in 1:14.40 at Hollywood Park on Saturday.

Dollase has high hopes for Esoteric Thinker, a Monarchos colt who the trainer said will run late in the meet.

Gary Mandella, Richard's son, said he believes the Deputy Minister colt Chancellor could turn out to be one of his best 2-year-olds.

Of those with proven form, EZ Warrior will make his next start in the Grade 2, $150,000 Best Pal Stakes on Aug. 13, according to Baffert, his trainer.

O'Neill bypassed the Hollywood Juvenile with Cobalt Blue because he said he did not want to run him back quickly. He could face EZ Warrior in the Best Pal. Cobalt Blue worked five furlongs in 1:01.80 on Monday at Hollywood Park.

O'Neill also trains Juvenile runner-up Great Hunter. He said his best filly could be Cool All Over, a daughter of Johannesburg who has yet to start.